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I have determined that wales are added support areas of the hull possibly around deck joints and gun decks. My research has revealed little concerning the actual location, use and number that a hull may have or be required. Most references in forums seem to assume knowledge that I  don't yet have. Could someone give a reply concerning the wale and its relation to the hull concerning its use, and how its location(s) are determined. Thanks in advance

 

dallen0121

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My observations are:

 

In warships- wales are to mitigate the weakness produced by cutting large holes in the side of a ship and are generally

at the port sills and below, since cutting a wale would negate any usefulness.  They also  resist the tendency of the hull

to hog in all ships and in warships , a source of stress would be the guns - at the side and the heaviest are just above the

waterline, so the heaviest wales are there.  The trick was to find the sweet spot- as low as possible, but not too low. The Vasa

taught European ship designers what happens if they got that wrong.

 

In the 16th C. and 17th C. the wales tended to be purely functional, and stuck out.  By the end of the time of wood and sail, the

wales were often masked by having the planking smoothly transition in cross section.  The increase in thickness of the transition

plank would add strength, but also be more expensive in both wood and carpenters' time.  I suspect that early wales that extended

below the waterline had an adverse effect of speed and handling, so they tend to be above the waterline in their lowest extent - until

 the transition technique was developed.

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Hi dallen;

 

To answer your question in general terms,  relating to British/American warships:

 

The wales were lengths of planking which were considerably thicker than the general exterior planking of a ship,  and so projected beyond the face of the other planks,  which makes them obvious features on both drafts and models.

 

The main wale normally followed the line of the widest part of the ship's body,  known as the line of maximum breadth.  On the majority of British and American vessels,  this was mostly vertical amidships,  and changed profile towards the bow and stern. 

 

As Jaager remarks above,  the wale was intended to counter-act 'hogging' or the tendency of the bow and stern to curve downwards over time,  leading to curvature of the keel and affecting the ship's performance.  This was caused by a combination of over-loading the ship at these points, normally with too many/too heavy cannon,  and by the fact that when at sea,  the movement of the waves often means that the ends of the vessel are not as deep in the water as the midships,  leaving the ends less well supported.

 

As a way of increasing the effectiveness of the wales in resisting this hogging tendency,  the wales were curved upwards at each end more sharply than the decks curved upwards.

 

Ships normally had one wale per deck,  with the main wale the lowest,  and those above diminishing in size.

 

The method of constructing the wales varied considerably over time,  and is one of the diagnostic features used to help date models in Museums and other collections. 

 

The upward curvature of the ship at each end is known as the 'sheer',  and was much greater in earlier centuries than in more modern times,  decreasing gradually,  until by the first quarter of the Victorian era,  most vessels were almost straight from end to end.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P

Edited by Mark P
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Dallen

 

As mentioned by Druxey, the country and era would help a lot. If for British ships, there is quite a bit of  information available.

 

The 1719 Establishment gives the depth, thickness, mention of hook and butt construction of the main and channel wales and also the thickness and number of diminishing strakes above and below the wales.

 

The Shipbuilders Repository (1788) and Steel's, Elements of Naval Architecture (1805) give the height of the lower edge of the main wales at the stem, dead flat, and after timber as measured from the upper edge of the rabbet for all rates.  It also gives how broad, the  number of strakes and thickness.  It gives distance from the upper edge of the main wales to the lower edge of the channel wale in midships as well as the thickness, etc. of the channel wales.  They also give thickness of the strakes above and below the main wales.   All of the above dimensions can be found in Scantlings of Royal Navy Ships.   

 

Allan

Edited by allanyed
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Druxey, Jagger, Mark, Anthony, Mike and Allanyed;

 

What a response and education! Thank you Jagger and Mark for your eloquent and informative narrative concerning the wale. Thank you Allanyed for your research material. All the information and research data will become part of my running "Deck Log" that will detail my entire voyage as a builder. Druxey, my broad type and era target would be 19th century American/British warships with focus on Frigates. Tweets and flurishes to you all.

 

dallen0121

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Greetings dallen; gentlemen;

 

I am glad to know that several people found my post useful. 

 

Mike:  the reason for the gradual reduction in the sheer of a ship seems to be that the higher the bow and stern are built,  the more they catch the wind,  with the result that the ship will heel over more easily,  and make more leeway. 

 

In earlier centuries,  it was considered an advantage to have one's decks higher than those of an enemy,  for the purpose of shooting down at them with bows or spears etc,  whilst it was much harder for the enemy to respond.  Shipwrights therefore curved the hull upwards as much as they could.  As cannon became more important in warfare,  this height became less important,  and performance considerations drove a gradual flattening.

 

Improved construction techniques developed under Robert Seppings,  chief surveyor to the Navy,  led to the ability to build longer ships that were less likely to hog due to the greater strength of their hull structure,  thus removing the last reason to build with an upward curve.  Ships could then be made with little or no sheer.

 

All the best,

 

Mark P 

Edited by Mark P
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    Dealing mostly with 18th century ships, but also having worked on a 1607 vintage ship model, I got some insight on wales.  I am sure there are more knowledgable people on the subject, but I will add my 2 quid.

 

    One function of the wale is to hold the frames together...sort of like barrel hoops.  I am not sure if that is the intended function, but as a major structural part, that's what it does.

 

   What I believe to be the primary function, is to provide structural "meat" to support other parts of the ship.  In the 18th century, this was to support the deck structures, such as the clamps, knees, etc.  In earlier years, the frames were much different.  Then, the futtocks were NOT bolted to each other.  Rather, they were bolted to a wale where the two futtocks overlapped.  That is why you see several narrower wales on ships like the Santa Maria or same era ships.  ...and, yes, from what I could tell from the plans, there were wales below the waterline.

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